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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

March to ban tasers in Sonoma County

by Carl ( impactpetaluma [at] gmail.com )

As part of a larger campaign to end the use of Tasers, the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality is calling for a press conference and march on Friday, February 13th at 5:30pm in Santa Rosa. Folks will march from Courthouse Square to the Sheriffs Office and demand that they end their use of tasers.

Inspired by the successful vigil and protest on December 26th, and by an outpouring of opposition to violent police practices, civil rights and police accountability groups are uniting with victims of police violence to call on the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department to ban the use of Tasers. To achieve this end we are circulating a petition, as well as literature informing people of the danger of Tasers, and the reality of police brutality in our community. The petition reads: “We, the people of Sonoma County, believe that the Sheriffs Department’s use of the Taser has repeatedly led to the unnecessary pain, suffering and death of our community members. As such, we hereby call for an immediate and outright ban on the Sonoma County Sheriff Department’s use of the weapon.” Furthermore, we are calling for a rally and march for Friday, February 13th at 5:30pm, starting at Courthouse Square and ending at the Sheriffs Department in Santa Rosa.

Contrary to the opinions expressed by the Sheriff and some members of the press, the use of Tasers is NOT an acceptable practice, nor does it do anything to make our communities safer. It is often said that Tasers are a “less-lethal” alternative to more lethal means of police intervention. But is the electric chair really more humane than the firing squad? Does electrocuting an unarmed civilian in to submission, or sometimes to death, improve safety or peace in our society? And is the amount of suffering that accompanies Taser use even justifiable in any circumstance? We don’t believe so. We cannot be fooled in to thinking that giving the police more weapons will create less violence, or that if we remove the Taser from the police arsenal then they will have no other choice but to just kill everyone. We are not interested in finding more efficient, “less-lethal” ways for police to hurt people. We want them to stop hurting people. We want them to be accountable to the community.

This problem goes well beyond a handful of cases of brutality, however. We believe that there is a systematic disregard for the lives of our people, specifically people of color, the immigrant community, people with substance abuse issues, and people with mental health problems (to name a few). It is undeniable that there is an urgent lack of treatment facilities in Sonoma County for those suffering from either mental illness or substance abuse. Roughly 400 people a day are turned away from drug/alcohol abuse treatment in Sonoma County alone. People suffering from these problems inevitably end up on the streets, or in unstable situations, until they reach a crisis point. We feel that the police are not the ones who should be dealing with people in these situations. There must be adequate treatment available to everyone.

There have also been numerous calls for more police oversight in the form of a Civilian Review Board. This would certainly be an improvement from the current practice of inter-department investigations and could lead to more accountability. We support these calls and hope to see a public process established where law enforcement must answer to the community.

Contact Petaluma CopWatch for more info:


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